Canning 101: Keeping Track and Taking Stock

January 19, 2011(updated on October 3, 2018)

spice racks

Believe it or not, we’re more than half way through January (I don’t know if I’m equipped to have the rest of the year go as fast as the last few weeks have passed). The holiday giving season is behind us and it’s been a few months since the height of the canning season. Things should be a littler quieter than they were in November and December, making it the perfect time to take stock of where things stand in your larder of home canned goods.

I know that for lots of you, this was only the first or second year that you tried your hand at preserving some food for the winter season, so how were you to know how much you’d wind up wanting to have in stock? It’s perfectly okay that this period be about learning, but a large part of that education process is keeping good track.

I’ll admit right here that I’m not always the best about writing down everything I’ve canned (although at least I have this blog to help me keep track, at least in part). But every year around this time, I try to take stock, determine what I still have, what’s starting to run out and plan accordingly.

Your tracking system can be as simple as a notebook, in which you list the things you’ve made and then you mark them off as you eat or gift them. I’ve seen some highly sophisticated spreadsheets in my time as well. The most important thing to do is develop a system that works for you and keep it up to date. This way, you’ll make sure to use up what you have and have some information to guide you as you head into next season (for instance, who else has a glut of jam, but is already starting to run low on tomatoes?).

So, where does everyone stand right now? Let’s hear about what’s running low and what you’re struggling to use up, as well as the tracking systems you use to help you keep track.

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54 thoughts on "Canning 101: Keeping Track and Taking Stock"

  • I’m a list-maker-type-A gal but forgot to make a list for all that I canned/froze/etc. I’m running low on pickles, blackberry syrup, frozen fruit, and well, it’s 9pm, I can’t remember what else 😉

  • I have an ample abundance of tomatillo salsa and jellies of all kinds. I wish I had more plain canned fruit. Next year I’ll also put up a lot of lightly sweetened syrups to make into sorbet.

    1. Save the extra syrup if fruit or spices have flavored it and can that as well. We use it to mix with plain soda water for soft drinks, glazes, topping for pancakes/waffles, and desserts as well as ice cream and sorbet.

  • I am looking forward to starting a canning adventure; in AZ, the canning season is a little different – peaches in May, apples in summer (hard for this PNW girl to comprehend). This is a new adventure, so the information which you so kindly offer is MUCH appreciated! I just wish you could come to my house and help me with my lemon marmalade project that is a sorry lot!

  • All that Peach BBQ sauce sounded like a good idea. Should have made more salsa! Also have way too many pickled green tomatoes. It was all a guessing game this year (my first canning year beyond jam), so I will definitely be making notes in my little notebook.

  • I just go by the looks of my pantry. Haven’t run out of anything, yet. But when you put up 150+ jars of peaches alone (not counting pears or applesauce or relish or anything else). Oh wait, I ran out of huckleberry jam that I canned in 2009 – skipped it this year. Whoops.

  • I have two jars of pickles …waaa…plenty of blueberry jams from the 30 pounds donated to me last year and a few blackberry jams….all else is gone….need to make more of everything or give away less….xoxo

  • I love my lists, but I didn’t keep a list of what and how much I canned this year. I should have thought of that – after all, I kept track of how much each type of veggie I planted produced (but that was in order to see how much food I could get out of my little garden). I’ll have to keep track of it next year. I know we’re flying through the plain diced tomatoes and the diced tomatoes with chilies, but not using much of the Italian ones. We’re also going through alot of apple pie filling and peaches. We’re out of strawberry jam, so I’ll be pulling some frozen strawberries out of the feezer soon to make some more.

  • Lists are great! We are almost out of salsa, pears and peaches. The pickles aren’t going as fast and I think I made way too much jam…

  • I just used the last of my tomatoes:( This was our first year of seriously canning and more tomatoes are definitely on the list. Still have loads of jam and peaches and some applesauce but didn’t make enough apple butter either (who knew my son would like it on peanut butter?). Looking forward already to starting up again. Definitely need to do more tomatoes!

  • This being my first year at canning, I have too much jam and jelly. Are they really only good for one year? This year I am going to try to can in smaller quantities. Pears and peaches are going fast so I will try to put up more fruit. I want to try my hand at making a smooth yellow mustard with white wine and shallots but can’t find any recipes to help me. Oh, and of course I need to plan on purchasing more canning jars this year to be prepared! 😉

    1. I was eating 2008 jams quite happily right through this year. Some of them seem a little thicker than I remember them, but they taste just fine to me. And I’ve not poisoned myself yet.

    2. I also have way too much jam and jelly too, but I’m not going to eat if after 1 year. I have upped our consumption of it to try to use it up by mixing it into smoothies, stirring it into plain yogurt, and using it as a glaze on meat. Also I am gifting more of it, rather than let it go to waste. Next year I’ll make less jam and just freeze more plain fruit.

    3. If it’s processed properly and looks/smells/acts normal when you open it, you can get a few years. I’m finally getting through relish from 2006 and 2007, and jam from 2007 or 2008. My grandma did the same thing, and while I refuse to water bath process green beans (sigh – she was old school), all my uncles, cousins and assorted spouses are all still alive and kickin’. I don’t do the inversion method at all though – that’s where I seem to hear of the one-year thing coming into play the most.

  • I am hoping to start canning this summer and I can’t wait. I read your blog pretty regularly to learn about everything I’ll need to do. I love your 101 entries because they address all sorts of questions I have about the process.

    I never thought of keeping an inventory, but I bet for serious canners that is a must-have!

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

  • I’m actually struggling to use up tomatoes, of all things; guess we went a little overboard this year! And I can’t keep stock in stock to save my life…at least that’s something that’s perfect for making in wintertime! Now if only, as you mention, the weeks wouldn’t go by so fast, maybe I’d actually have time to *make more.*

  • This was my first year canning and I kept a notebook with what I canned and how much I paid per pound for the veggie or fruit. I’m completely out of strawberry jam, which I made the most of, but have plenty of other jams. Tomatoes are starting to run a bit low and my kids are eating a pint of applesauce every other day so I’m worried about those running out. I have plenty of BBQ sauce and salsa left.

  • I admit I just keep the jars in the boxes they came in, making sure that the older ones are at the top, so it tends to come as something of a surprise when I get down a box and see what I had out there.

    Conclusions from this year:

    –not making raspberry jam was a huge, huge mistake. Raspberry jam is quite possibly the best jam in the world, with a few honorable exceptions.

    –I tend to hoard the stuff I really, really like, which is a mistake.

    –I’m not using half as many tomatoes as I thought I would. And I’m not using any of the tomato/vegetable sauce at all. Need to use tomato/vegetable sauce.

    –I need a system to track the age of the spices. I suspect some of them are getting a little too old.

  • First year really taking inventory and having my canning shelves. It is so much better than keeping it in the boxes stacked on each other in the different catagories. I made these spicy dilled green beans called Zydeco beans. They are so spicy I can only eat a few of them at a time. I only made one batch of them, 3 pints, because I didn’t know if I would like them. Well, going to make more next year. I’m with the person of not following over for over a year jams. If the seal is good then I’m good. I was disapointed that raspberries didn’t come in this summer, but strawberries did. I will have to see what is needing more balance for amounts of different things this next summer. Have fun!

  • must make more tomato sauce- the sauce we did make didnt come out very good i admit, and we have been using the crushed tomatoes more- i think next year i will just do crushed tomatoes….
    less applesauce more apple butter- my kids and hubby love it! and i have to make more out of the sauce we already have- i am just lazy in the winter so i may as well do it all in the summer when it’s on my mind…
    more dilly beans- they pack the right punch to our veg. chili
    more of the jams the kids like- strawberry, blueberry/blackberry and more of the marmalade i like- lemon!!
    also i think less adventurous stuff- garlic tomato jelly has not gone over well in the house
    less straight up canned fruit- we forget to eat it, we are not a store canned fruit family so i forget to eat the homemade ones too

  • Yah, I admit that I have more a system of Chaos… I guess it makes it more fun when you are looking at what you made 6 months later, and play “Guess what this was!” LOL
    I have to get off my keister and ACTUALLY do some more canning this year. It is right on top of the list!

  • I have made a concious effort to use what I have canned this year. In order to accomplish that I just quit buying canned and prepared food at the grocery store. I always go overboard on strawberries because I usually have two or three helpers (it’s the first thing we can every year and the enthusiasm is still there!) It was a horrible tomato season last year so there is no tomato sauce and only a few jars of salsa. Lots of apple juice still left, and we are eating our way through the peaches. I did more stuff in pints and half pints since it’s just me and my husband, and that has helped a ton. Have to meter out the tuna to make sure it lasts to next August when it’s in season. Best idea this year was to make marmalade. Everyone’s favorite gift this year (and every year) is dilly beans. Wish that I had done pears. I keep my jars on shelves so I can see what I’ve got, but the shelves are out in our garage/barn which is inconvenient. Have a mud-room closet cleaned out and awaiting heavy-duty shelving to move more stuff inside. As for keeping track, I keep a spreadsheet of what I can and when, how much I paid (if anything) for fruit and the number of jars I get out. I also have a notebook of my canning recipies that I like because with as many books and web pages that have recipes, I can’t remember from year to year which recipe I used for anything new I might have tried. I just copy it down and stick it in a new tab for the year so I can note if we liked it or not when we get around to eating it! Also, canned goods will last for several years provided that the seal is intact, so don’t panic if it’s not all used up by the end of the year. Just make sure to put your new stuff BEHIND it so you use up the old first!

  • I’m normally a big list-maker, but I’ve been just going by what I see. I’m out of tomato sauce (I wish I’d had 10 times as much, but that requires a lot of tomatoes!). I’m still good on salsa verde – I’ve got enough to make a big pan of enchiladas every other week through the winter, which is exactly what I’ll do. I have a few quarts of tomatoes left and they’ll get used for sure. I’m on the last jar of dill pickles, I wish I’d had the chance to make more of those for sure. One thing I will never run out of is jam! I also have a couple pints of corn, which we don’t use often, but they won’t go to waste. I also have a ton of apple sauce but that gets put into baked goods so you can’t go wrong there.

    Next year: less jam, and more of them fruit butters to decrease the sugar, more tomato sauce, same on tomatillo salsa (about 20 pints), same on canned tomatoes. Maybe a little less apple sauce, more dill pickles.

  • This was my 1st year canning and realize I have to either give away less (but it is sooo fun to share!) or make more, when I thought I was canning like crazy! lol Salsa is about the only thing we have enough of and that is mostly due to not sharing it :). Not to fond of the pickled green cherry tomatoes but oh my gosh LOVED the tomato jam! More pickled everything for this season, I only did pickled hot peppers that flew off my pantry shelf and nasturtium seeds which I am loving! I want to try syrups, boozy fruit, mustard’s and spice blends this year too.
    Who knew canning was so fun! lol I guess you all did 🙂
    Your blog was one of the 1st I found and I just want to thank you for all you have shared and taught me in 2010, looking forward to the continuing education in 2011! WOO HOO

  • We were out of marinara sauce by mid-December. Wow, that went quick, and we’ll make 4 times as much next year. Need to can more: b+b pickles, tomatoes. I routinely keep jars of jam for 2 years; made a double batch of raspberry, may not make this next year. Need more peach and apricot. Need to make violet syrup again this spring.

    We went overboard on the salsa, especially the tomatillo – need to devise more ways to use that up. *sarahincheloe, you’ve just reminded me of enchiladas, great idea! I plot already.

  • I’m a beginner in the canning field. I found that my family gobbled up the fresh salsa I made with garden tomatoes. Next year I’ll make at least double the amount. I also made stewed tomatoes, and they’re gone now, despite not going as quickly as the salsa. We have plenty of jam, and I gave some as gifts, and I’m also considering making orange marmalade.
    The other inventory is my freezer. I have strawberries and blueberries, but we’ve used up most of the corn and the beans. Next year, vegetables! That’s a great feeling; knowing the family likes the fresh frozen veggies.

  • I’ve made far more jam than I can use or gift and probably not enough tomato sauce to get us through the year. Last year I started keeping a canning journal, but haven’t started recording how much we use and what’s given as gifts. This year I plan to put up more carefully – no more canning for the sake of canning. It’s fun, but really, we don’t need 200 jars of jam!

  • Jeri, I put up the green salsa in 12oz jars, which is the perfect amount for a package of tortillas (12). And if it’s really spicy I mix in about 1/2 cup of sour cream before I pour it over. Yum. I make enchiladas a couple times a month, and I use whatever’s in season – mushrooms, zucchini, sauteed onions, even butternut squash (it was better than I expected).

  • i have just been keeping a mental tally.

    i am low/decent on my salsa and tomatillo salsa, i dislike commercial salsas and i know i’ve been holding back a little this year already so next year: more. the tomato jam i made based on your recipe has been a complete hit with everyone that i have given it to and i definitely plan to make a double or triple batch next year.

    i have been working through my surplus of jams and fruit butters by making granola with them. all in all, its working out okay.

    the one item i have a complete abundance of is ginger garlic plum sauce. guess i need to get into stirfrys and wontons more!

  • I still have plenty of ketchup and salsa, but I’m either out or almost out of both crushed tomatoes and pasta sauce. There’s still plenty of pickles. We’re getting down to the last half-dozen jars of jam. I shared a lot of that so we would have more otherwise, but as is I think we will still have enough jam to carry us through spring and into the new jam season.
    For 2011, definitely more tomatoes and pasta sauce! And I’m probably going to stick to only strawberry jam, because it’s what we really like the most.

  • We never have enough of my roasted tomato sauce–never! I have 4 of 6 cases of my green chili left. probably overdid it, but it’s such a pain I try to do it every other year, not every year. I am not using tomato soup like i thought i would..We will be running out of strawberry jam anyday now–DH’s fav. And the cranberry jam was a raging hit — I have one jar left I’m hoarding. Will be making more here once everyone is done being sick here. Can’t seem to ever get enough stock, the peach salsa was fabulous fresh, but not nearly as good canned so next year I will freeze it instead. This year is the first I’ve kept track and taken inventory– Over 438 jars!

  • I put my last jar of my very first batch of berry jam in the fridge this morning (which I made in July from my very own berries and what sparked my new passion for canning and Marisa keeps stoking the fire with her excellent recipes and ideas!) Even after having plenty holiday gifts — I still have lots of jam and my first batch of grapefruit lemon marmalade yielded 12 jars this month. I just churned out a fresh batch of sweet pickle relish, but that never lasts long. I have plums, 2 jars of peaches, a jar of regular cranberry sauce and a grown-up jar as well, couple jars of applesauce and I keep hoarding my tomato jam and tomato basil sauce. Some nectarine chutney, too, that I keep forgetting to use. Yes, too many pickled green tomatoes. This year I plan on way more peaches and apricots and never did get to make strawberry jam and those will be showing up soon in California — last year they were amazing, but I wasn’t canning yet. I’d also like to try salsas, mustard and ketchup. I look through my pantry occasionally to take a tally — all my jars have lovely labels with dates and I pretty much know I have quite a bit of time to use or gift what I have on hand, but I don’t have nearly 438 jars to keep track of -wow!!!

  • I will definetly make more marinara sauce – I have one pint left (I just made a quick batch of more with my canned tomatoes to get me through). I still have some canned tomatoes left but will probably run out around March. I will can more this time. I also want to can tomato soup this time. And more salsa (have one pint left). Jam wise, I am good. I only did some and gave the rest away as gifts. Don’t use it that much even though some is good in the crock pot with pork (especially the apricot/peach jams, btw). I just recently made a list of what I put up and how much went to the pantry/gifts.

  • My inventory is a guessing game- I reach in the box and see what kind of jam I pull out. It’s a suprise everytime! 🙂 Actually, I have very little jam left, a few starwberry that I hoarded and one or two peach- the rest was gifted or eaten. A few pickles left, but I have been restraining my family from devouring them. Definitely more pickled asparagus next year, they were awesome. Also hope to improve my ginger-peach butter. Applesauce has been going like mad- my two year old inhales it. Guess it’s better than her inhaling candy!

  • This summer was definitely a learning summer, making a ton of grape jelly (which is certainly still lingering), dill beans which were gifted almost as soon as I made them, and peaches which are lasting well. I need to re-try my hand at tomato sauce, I didn’t anticipate how much I would need (and how much I actually go through). I think those 8 pints were gone by September…

  • Have enough tomatoes and pickles. I did not make tomato sauce or marinara this year and just about every week I want some! and ran out of 2009 ketchup and tomatillo salsa, so will do those again in 2011. I will run out of peaches,only did 1/2 bushel. Made a second batch of applesauce before Christmas as I ran out. I only made chokecherry jelly and apricot jam this year and that was fine , as still had orange, lemon, prickly pear and pear marmalades from last year and I was gifted enough other jam/jelly to be just perfect. I will definitely make more apricot jam next year – I know now it is our absolute favorite. Too much picalilli (6), too many mustard pickle (6) , just enough three bean salad (3)and pickled asparagus (3), pickled fennel (3), pickled green tomato (6)cranberry relish (3) etc. …. sometimes you just end up with a bit much as that is how the recipe is written.But I do know now to scale back “production” annually on the jams and jellies – we just don’t go thru that much in a year with just two of us.

  • I only just got into canning last year and all I’ve made so far was some peach butter. I’ve been making marmalades for the past few weeks, as it’s citrus season here in Cali. I love them and hope to use them in all kinds of desserts.

    The peach butter has me stumped, though. It came out all right, but I can’t stand the smell. I made it when I was going through morning sickness. I made some bread with it, and that came out all right. I need more ideas for using it up, though.

  • Am still trying to figure out a way to keep track of it all! Yes, I see the wisdom of making a list, or some sort of inventory. So, will study all the suggestons here, then formulate a plan.

    Must do it. Must do it. Must do it NOW!! This month, ’cause if it doesn’t get done now, it never will!

  • Next year more pickled carrots (esp. the “morroccan” ones with coriander and ginger), more pickled peppers (Michael Symon’s recipe), more kimchi, I’m eating them as winter salads with the roasted beets I froze, also a success.

  • I keep a running list of what I have put up for each year; my mom and sister track the price and quantity of produce going into the jars, which I think is a great idea. How else can you remember what a peck of peaches costs from year to year? I have noticed that we are eating a lot differently from last year, hardly touching the tomato products except for pizza and ketchup for cocktail sauce. I guess we just haven’t been in the mood for tomato soup or pasta this winter. I have my pantry organized by category, so it’s easy to gauge the status of the chutney, sliced fruit, or pickle stockpile.

  • No winter where I’m from so canning season is anytime, pretty much. Though I suppose you all could preserve at any time too, given the supermarkets…just wouldn’t be practical.

  • I have enough jam and fruit butters of every taste and flavor to both give away and keep my husband happy who is a jam man. I believe in putting up all that our gardens and trees gift us each season, and this year, apples in Washington state were bounteous, so lots of wonderful applesauces: Sweet Golden Delicious. Low Sugar Golden Delicious. No Sugar Pear-Apple Butter (freezer), Matsu Chunky Applesauce, sweet and low sugar combos.

    Incredible Rhubarb this year. (I’ve made Rhubarb Marmalade in past, plus a great Rhubarb Courvoisieur Jam — both good on toast or to cook/baste on ham or other meats for a special holiday treat), but this year’s Rhubarb took the cake: for the liquid I used a homemade wildcrafted Himmalyan Blackberry Juice (sweetened) and the combo is excellent, thick and sweet/tart, like an applesauce. We’re just now enjoying them and giving it to friends who like Rhubarb.

    First year we made pickles — wow, the cukes (3 kinds) grew like mad this year so lots of bread and butter varieties, great for gifts for city folk. My newphew said: I didn’t know you grew pickles! …

    The best this year? On a hike I stumbled on heirloom shrub/trees of both red and golden beach plums, picked pocketfuls and made an incredible jam: Wildcrafted Beach Plum Jam with Port Infused with Borage Flowers (from our garden). The only sad thing this year? We had no heat in the summer or spring, so tomatoes were not happening, and so we miss dried tomatoes, and infused in olive oil w/thyme, garlic and rosemary.

    So much more to share and speak of! Heirloom pumpkins and squashes made into Pumpkin Butters (freezing them since pumpkin is iffy with canning ….) I LOVE canning, putting up the bounty of our gardens and kitchen orchard. Eight years ago I lived in a doorman building on the upperwestside of Manhattan, and never knew such pleasures. Buying and planting and caring for a fruit tree is one of the greatest joys, much better than a pair of high heels or another dumb purse.

    I must thank our honey bees, and the wild bumblebees, without whom, we would not have such blessings to share. If you can, find a way to have hives in your garden this year. Learn about bees and care for them as they are our children, and we, theirs.

    I have no system/record keeping other than labels w/year notated and “titles.” This year I had so many jars, instead of labels, to save time I used a color coded round (small) dot labels on the top of the jars, and typed up and posted (laminated) the “key” color system in the pantry w/date, contents, title, etc. Seems to work.

  • I am pretty much running low on everything, which is kind of what I expected given our harvest. But I am going to keep better track this upcoming season! Thanks for the tips and reminders!

  • This was my first time canning since I was a child. I love salsa and hot sauce and made several different kinds. I ended up with 22 pints jars in September and the two of us have finished off 20 jars, which is about one jar a week. We don’t ever buy that much salsa so I didn’t realize how much we would use. I’m going to have to make much more next year.

  • I wish I had kept track of what I spent on produce/how much it made, so I could have a better picture of my canning budget. Will start keeping track from now on!

  • I don’t know why I’ve never thought to keep track, but I definitely will from now on. We’re always a little excessive in some areas, and a little sparse in others.

  • I can in 2 year batches. I track by having a pantry in the basement on shelving units. Like goes with like, so it’s easy to tell what we’ve got & what we’re out of. I’m good on jams and tomatoes, though, it’s Jan. in VT and we’ve still got winter for 3-4 months. I’m going into the winter canning season and beginning to do dried beans and stocks. We’ve also run out of salsas, so I’ll need to do those this summer. I’ve finally got my husband on board and he and the children will all be canning this summer – several articles on high fructose corn syrup missing a metabolic step really caught his attention. We’re thinking we’ll be putting up preserved & frozen fruits to make fruit salad with. Maybe some corn too. I try each year to fill in what we’ve used up and make some new things too. Maybe tomato paste…anyone tried canning that? And with 3, soon to be 4 children, from 9-unborn, we use up a LOT!

  • I jot it down on my wall calendar. August 26th reads 1 batch of pickles, 8 pints. It also reads, 1 batch pepper jelly with no number of pints included. It’s a work in progress but it’s fun to look back and see when I put up what. I definitely don’t have enough canned tomatoes so I always hoard them. I still have plenty of jam and b&b pickles.

  • I’ve always used a spreadsheet for my freezer, but never thought to do one for the pantry. Great idea! We are running low on tomato sauce and zucchini pickles. Plenty of jam and I need to remember to break open the pickled beans!

  • We’ll never have enough applesauce or traditional-flavored jam as long as my son takes a PB&J to school everyday and devours applesauce like it’s water. Pickled veggies never go so fast around here.

  • I just moved my jars from one storage location to another, and took stock as I went. This year I got smart and labeled everything well. I have way too much applesauce for this point in the year.–21 pints and 3 quarts. I wish I’d canned more tomatoes. Ah, well. There’s always next year, and I will definitely use a spreadsheet to keep track of all my canning in 2011.

  • I only can in small amounts and have found that my best successes are with tomatoes. We also use those the most. We don’t use jellies, jams or marmalades so we don’t make those. I seem to get wimpy pickles or pickled peppers so only try a few batches each year. Actually, I freeze more produce than I can and I have found that a large erase board works well. I have the items listed with hash marks that get erased as an item comes out of the freezer. Then I can look at that to know what I have instead of opening the freezer on a hot summer day. From all of the comments, I think I will do the same in my pantry once we do our kitchen remodel.
    Oh, I would also love a recipe for tomato paste as well if someone would share theirs.